Model Systems and Cancer Therapeutics

Principal Investigator: 
Award Type: 


  • Philip Hieter
    University of British Columbia/Michael Smith Laboratories


  • Samuel Aparicio
    BC Cancer Agency
  • David Huntsman
    BC Cancer Agency
  • Marco Marra
    BC Cancer Agency
  • Donald Riddle
    University of British Columbia
  • Michel Roberge
    University of British Columbia
  • Ann Rose
    University of British Columbia

Mutations that cause genome instability are known to contribute to the development of cancer. Most solid malignant tumours exhibit chromosome instability (mis-segregation of chromosomes during cell division), resulting in daughter cells that contain an incorrect number of chromosomes. A better understanding of the basis for this type of genome instability holds promise for identifying new targets for cancer-killing drugs.

This unit brings together researchers in model organism genetics, high throughput DNA sequencing, chemical biology, and cancer biology. Unit researchers will work to translate recent advances in the understanding of the genetic basis of genome stability in model organisms (the budding yeast and the nematode worm) to determine the spectrum of gene mutations that lead to genome instability in cancer cells. Such genes may define a genetic “Achilles Heel” for selective killing of tumour cells.

The goals of the Unit will be to identify, characterize, and validate a pipeline of promising anticancer drug targets. This will allow for three specific outcomes:

  • Validated targets will be licensed to pharmaceutical companies and proceeds will be used to enhance the throughput of the Unit infrastructure.
  • The Unit will select a small subset of candidate cancer drug targets to develop assays for chemical screening that will be used for drug discovery efforts in collaboration with the Centre for Drug Research and Development or for startup companies in British Columbia.
  • Further academic investigations will be supported through the submission of new peer reviewed operating grants to the relevant granting agencies (CIHR, NSERC, NCIC, NIH). This will generate the majority of graduate student and postdoctoral training opportunities of the Unit.

The successful development of effective cancer therapy will improve the lives of British Columbians and save significantly on health care costs associated with this disease.

Health Category: 
Host Institution: 
University of British Columbia
Research Location: 
University of British Columbia